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Monthly Archives: October 2011

Five books about the mess we’re in

For anyone who cares to understand how we’ve gotten ourselves in our present ecclesiastical mess, I’d suggest that he read the following five works:

America’s God, Mark Noll
Revival and Revivalism, Iain Murray
The Democritization of American Christianity, Nathan Hatch
Christianity’s Dangerous Idea, Alister McGrath
Promise Unfulfilled, Rolland McCune

 
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Posted by on October 31, 2011 in Fundamentalism, Pastoral, Society

 

Cultural skepticism, the opposite of worldliness

Conservatism will have little attraction for those who fail to be skeptical of their own culture. The skepticism of which I speak must run deep; there is a sort of piecemeal skepticism that is insufficient for the task. A pack of these two-bit skeptics is currently busy occupying various cities.

It is comparatively unusual for anyone to view his own cultural order with the detachment which makes ethical judgments possible. A person may sporadically condemn this practice or that institution, but it will done in a spirit of pique or irritation. Resentments do not make one a philospher of his culture.

Rigorous criticism of ones own culture is a first step to avoiding worldliness. We can usefully think of worldliness as the unswerving dedication to the assumption that this world provides the rules for normal life. An illustration may be helpful; Richard Weaver’s Visions of Order (also the source for the above quotation) offers the following:

A society should have very strong reasons for being willing to sacrifice 40,000 lives a year and take care of several hundred thousand wounded. It certainly does not regard each human life as infinitely precious if it is willing to trade 40,000 annually for something that is not infinite. It would seem…that comfort and convenience, to which we should add a love of mobility, have made themselves a new Moloch; and the idol demands of his worshipers not only the annual toll of life but also a restlessness and superficiality of spirit.

Weaver here observes that Americans have de facto decided that the conveniences of the automobile are worth 40,000 lives annually. (While the number of deaths per mile driven has dropped enormously since Weaver’s day, the total number of fatalities per year has remained between 30,000 and 50,000.) From a Christian perspective, is this a worthwhile trade?

Your final answer to this question is less my concern than the immediacy of your answer. If your first inclination is to spout a semi-indignant, “Of course we must have cars!”, as though the use of the automobile is a non-negotiable element of human existence, I’d like to suggest that modern society and culture are rooted quite deeply in you. What comes out of us as a matter of unthinking reflex is the surest indication of our most unquestioned assumptions. When our most unquestioned assumptions are those we have swallowed undiluted from our culture, we are worldly.

Also posted on the blog of Religious Affections

 
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Posted by on October 27, 2011 in Conservatism, Society

 

A new title

For discussion: I propose that henceforth I will identify myself as an Old School Baptist.

 
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Posted by on October 25, 2011 in Conservatism, Fundamentalism

 

On the appearance of age

Pete Enns (formerly of Westminster Theological Seminary) has begun a series of blog posts aimed squarely at the young earth creationism advocated by Al Mohler

My aim is not to cross swords with Mohler, put him in his place, go after him, score points, misrepresent, or any of the other types of tactics that tend to be employed when people disagree on the internet.

Those tactics are both tedious and sub-Christian, and I continue to be amazed at how easily theological watchdogs fail to watch their own theologies by their belligerent denunciations and mockeries of those who don’t interpret the Bible the way they do, thinking the Gospel is at stake at every turn.

Having said that, let me state clearly that I believe Mohler is dead wrong at virtually every turn in how he approaches the difficult subject of biblical Christianity and evolution. I also believe he is free to think as he choses and live with the consequences, and I am not writing to convince him otherwise.

I am writing, rather, for the sake of those who are living with the consequences of what Mohler says they must believe–those who feel trapped in Mohler’s either/or rhetoric, that to question a literal interpretation of Scripture concerning creation puts one on the path to apostasy.

In his most recent post, Enns targets the creationist claim that, while the earth is only 6,000 years old (or thereabouts), it appears to be much older. In Enns’s evaluation, this allows YECs to “accept the observations of science while rejecting the interpretation of those observations by scientists.” Enns offers two complaints about the claim of apparent age, neither of which are impressive.

The second claim is this:

“Apparent age” is an arbitrary claim that makes the “facts fit the theory.”

It is surely obvious that the theory of “apparent age” is generated to make the observations of science fit Mohler’s literal reading of Genesis. Unless one were precommitted to a literal reading of Genesis, one would never think of making this sort of claim.

Enns’s claim here is dubious for two reasons.

  1. As a claim (it is hardly an argument), it is simplicity itself to turn the same argument back on Enns. Thus: “It is surely obvious that the theory of ‘theistic evolution (of whatever sort)’ is generated to make the text of Scripture fit Enns’s understanding of the observations of science. Unless one were precommitted to the infallibility of scientific claims, one would never think of advocating this understanding of the text of Genesis.” Both Enns’s claim and my inversion of same are irrelevant as to the truth of the appearance of age claim. It may well be the case that Enns’s motives for holding his position are skewed, or that Mohler’s evidentiary basis for holding his position is invalid; even if true, these statements have no impact on whether Enns’s or Mohler’s positions are true.
  2. My advocacy of appearance of age in creation is decidedly more a priori than it is a posteriori; that is to say, I would be an advocate of the notion of the appearance of age with or without consultation of scientific evidence. Everything that God created in the Garden appeared to be x numbers of years old; creation was mature. The principle of appearance of age is thus embraced without reference to scientific evidence; the extent of the appearance of age can be informed by scientific experimentation. Thus, Enns’s notion that Mohler (or other advocates of YEC and AoA) is driven to advocate appearance of age merely as a convenient way to account for the scientific data is mistaken.
 
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Posted by on October 13, 2011 in Apologetics